(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Decision on Taylor trial venue rests with head of Special Court

[Liberia] Liberian President Charles Taylor.

The new president of the UN-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone, Justice George Gelaga King, is expected in the coming days to make the final call on whether to try former Liberian president Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone or The Hague in the Netherlands.

Taylor faces charges of war crimes in Sierra Leone including murder, rape and providing financial support for Sierra Leone rebel fighters who terrorised civilians, hacking off their hands and feet.

If Justice King decides to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and push for Taylor’s trial to be moved to The Hague, the indictments will still be served under jurisdiction of the Sierra Leone Special Court but will use the high security facilities of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Or, King could make an about turn and lobby to keep the landmark trial in Sierra Leone.

This week the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court dismissed a motion forwarded by Taylor’s lawyers asking the court president to withdraw his predecessor’s request to shift the trial to The Hague. Taylor’s lawyers argue that their client will not get a fair trial there.

The Court dismissed the motion ruling that “at this stage of the proceedings, matters relating to the venue of the Taylor trial are exclusively within the administrative and diplomatic mandate of the president”.

The location of Taylor’s trial has divided Sierra Leoneans. Some are hungry to see an African president brought to justice on African soil, while others fear that his presence could destabilise the country and even the whole sub-region.

Also this week the head of the Nigerian Armed Forces, General Martin-Luther Agwai said the Nigerian army would give evidence against Taylor if invited to do so by the Special Court.

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